From Sweden To Richmond/From Richmond To Sweden: A Little More Conversation

Welcome to the first ever simultaneous post of Elvis Today Blog and The Mystery Train Blog. We’re going to try something a little different and present a discussion of Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis: Recorded Live On Stage In Richmond, Virginia – March 18, 1974, one of the latest CDs from Sony’s Follow That Dream Records collectors label for Elvis fans.

The Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis title reflects that Elvis closed out his tour two days after the Richmond concert with a show in Memphis – portions of which became the 1974 album Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis.

Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis (2011 FTD, booklet cover)

Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis (2011 FTD, booklet cover)

Ty [The Mystery Train Blog]
I’m glad you thought of this idea, Thomas.

Thomas [Elvis Today Blog]
Yeah, well, it must have been exciting when you heard of this release. What was your first impression when you listened to it?

Ty
That this was obviously the best Elvis Presley release in history, as I’m sure you’ll agree! Just kidding… The first time I played it, I just tried to imagine being there, in the Richmond Coliseum that night.

Thomas
I would’ve loved to be there, that’s for sure. The atmosphere during that particular tour in the southern states obviously was an indescribably electric one, and the shows were of high quality. Have you noticed the joyful laughter from one person in the audience when “Also Sprach Zarathustra” begins? A safe bet is he’s one excited man.

Ty
That almost nervous laughter was the first thing I noticed. My other first impression, I was really happy to hear Elvis make Richmond-related references not once, not twice, but three times during the show. I think you’ve heard more Elvis concerts than I have, Thomas, but I believe it is rare for him to mention what city he is in – outside of Las Vegas, that is.

Thomas
And multiple times at that! Also, I was pleased that he mentioned Sweden as well!

Ty
This is probably the only concert where he mentions both Richmond and Sweden. Now that I think about it, I suppose he very well could have mentioned both during the March 12 show in Richmond, too. This March 18 Richmond show was added because the March 12 one sold out so quickly. So there might be two concerts where he mentions both Richmond and Sweden

Thomas
The reason Elvis mentioned my country is because Sweden’s Per-Erik “Pete” Hallin was playing piano for the group Voice at the time. I actually interviewed him once, but that’s another story.

Ty
He was a second piano player on the stage at the same time as Glen Hardin? Or just when Voice was opening?

Thomas
I think he was just playing the piano when Voice was opening, and then sang together with them on stage while Elvis was on. Elvis actually mentions Pete at the end of this concert, during “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” when he sings “… some things, you know, Pete, are meant to be…” He did this two days later in Memphis as well, where he also introduced Pete and the other members of Voice individually.

Ty
I had always wondered who “Pete” was on the Memphis show, so that clears it up. Funny that he gets the exact same mention here on the Richmond concert. As far as I could tell, it is just Elvis doing the same joke, not an audio repair or anything where they pulled it from the Memphis show.

Thomas
I agree, it’s the same joke. Elvis obviously liked to recycle his jokes, like the “I saw J.D., with baldheaded Sally” that was used both in Richmond and in Memphis during the “Rock Medley.”

Ty
I’m also pretty sure, outside of Vegas, I’ve never heard Elvis reference the hotel where he stayed. After the introductions on Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis, he thanks Richmond’s John Marshall Hotel.

Thomas
Yes, I was actually surprised to hear him mention the hotel. That is unusual.

Ty
So, that first time through, I was really happy with this CD. I was all kinds of worried that I would be disappointed with either the sound or the show itself.

Thomas
Glad you liked the show as well as the sound. Now there’s been a lot written about the sound, this being a newly discovered 2-track copy of a 16-track tape.

Ty
Right, we should address the sound controversy. I was already excited about this release when it was first announced. This represents the first official release of an Elvis concert in Richmond, after all. However, when the news later came out that the source of this concert was a 16-track professional recording, rather than the expected soundboard, I think that brought the rest of the Elvis World to where I already was in anticipating this CD.

Thomas
Yes, I was excited when I heard of this, also. A newly discovered 16-track professional recording, where did that one come from?

Ty
That’s right. All the fans were excited until FTD essentially said, “Oops, did we mention this was mono?” Then, I think FTD took a lot of heat for that. Some of it deserved, for poor communication. At the same time, I think the reaction by some fans was way overblown. But, hey, I guess that’s what Elvis fans do. How did you feel when you found out Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis would actually be in mono?

Thomas
At first, a little disappointed, maybe, but I was looking forward to the album anyway, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the show for the first time. I think the sound is great!

Ty
I agree, the sound is incredible, especially considering that it is from a mono tape. I was glad to be able to put that concern to rest. I’m not someone who hates mono recordings, though. After all, Elvis has quite a few more mono songs that maybe a few of the complainers should try hearing someday. Such “unknowns” as “Mystery Train,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “One Night,” “Baby, Let’s Play House,” “Love Me,” “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” and “Don’t Be Cruel” – to name but a few. There are also some 1960s movie soundtrack songs that I think sound better in mono than their stereo counterparts. “Viva Las Vegas” is one that immediately comes to mind. You can never please everyone, though.

Thomas
Yes, they should give them a spin. I remember when RCA made “electronically created stereo” out of a lot of the mono albums – they sounded terrible!

Ty
I’m glad they didn’t try that here.

Thomas
Yeah, me too. Thinking about it, it’s really incredible that a show in this sound quality surfaces so many years after it was recorded.

Ty
That is the real mystery here, and the liner notes really do nothing to clear that one up. Just the same kinds of speculation all of us were doing when we first heard.

Thomas
So, what about the actual show, Ty? No doubt Elvis is in good spirits and enjoying his work, wouldn’t you agree? He sounds happy and close to laughter on many occasions. “Fever” is probably as close to a laughing version as it gets. “That’s a fun song to do!” he says. At the same time, he delivers good, solid renditions of many of the songs. “Steamroller Blues” is one of the highlights to me, as is “Polk Salad Annie” and “An American Trilogy.” Not to mention “Trying To Get To You,” where he really uses his voice to the fullest.

Ty
Well, jumping right into “Fever,” I’ve never been a big fan of the “I light up when you call my name… ELVIS!” versions of this song, for some reason. So, that is my least favorite track on the album.

Thomas
In a way I agree, but I think the version two days later in Memphis is even worse.

Ty
I agree that the Richmond Fever is better than the Memphis Fever, but it’s a bad bug, either way. At times, “Let Me Be There” also grates on my nerves, and don’t even get me started on J.D. Sumner’s “Amen” dive-bomb routine. However, those are just about the only negatives I ultimately found about this show.

Thomas
Maybe that was a song that was more fun to watch than only hear.

Ty
I was also worried about “Suspicious Minds” – a favorite of mine.  I was really disappointed by the Memphis live version of that one when it finally came out a few years ago. So, I was worried that I wouldn’t like the Richmond version, either. But it’s great, very energetic. It would’ve been great to see.

Thomas
Yes, by this time he’d performed “Suspicious Minds” for five years or something, and I always thought he was tired of it, when I heard the version from Memphis. But in Richmond he does sound happier with it, that’s true, Ty!

Elvis at the Richmond Coliseum, March 18, 1974 (FTD)

Elvis at the Richmond Coliseum, March 18, 1974 (FTD)

Ty
The other highlights for me were “Also Sprach Zarathustra”/”See See Rider,” for the excitement of imagining Elvis taking the Richmond Coliseum stage by storm. “Steamroller Blues,” which I might like even better than Memphis version, my favorite rendition until this point.

Thomas
I just love the way he shouts “Aargh!” at the intro of “Steamroller Blues,” and what then follows really lives up to the song’s name.

Ty
Let’s see, I also enjoyed the “Rock Medley” – what a great idea for Elvis to link together all those songs. Rather than just do the typical “Hound Dog” throwaway, I think it worked somewhat better like this, at the tail end of the medley. It’s still too fast, but not as disappointing as most of the other post-1970 Hound Dogs.

Thomas
For some reason I thought the “Rock Medley” rocked even more than it did in Memphis, and I love the tail end too!

Ty
Yes, the “Rock Medley” was another one that Elvis performed better than its Memphis counterpart.
“Polk Salad Annie” was one I didn’t care for on Memphis, but loved it in Richmond.

Thomas
I always enjoy hearing Elvis saying things I’ve never heard in songs before, like during the guitar solo in “Polk Salad Annie” by James Burton where he says something like “Sneak up on him, Ronnie!” I can just imagine him casting a glance in Tutt’s direction while saying this.

Ty
Yeah! I guess because we’ve heard so many of his shows, that’s the kind of stuff that stands out to us. While the general public would say, “Why do I need another ‘Polk Salad Annie’?”

Thomas
The two songs that got the most serious renditions were the gospel songs, “Why Me, Lord” and “Help Me.”

Ty
I was relieved that “Why Me” wasn’t a laughing/joking version. Not that I mind some joking, but it seems ill-suited for a gospel song. I think I like the Memphis version of “Why Me” better, though.

Thomas
Elvis cared deeply for that kind of music.

Ty
You know, that’s one of the terrific things about his show, especially from this time period, the way it brings together so many kinds of music – gospel, country, blues, rock ‘n’ roll. What other so-called “rock star” could do that?

Thomas
That’s true, Ty, Elvis sang “Something for Everybody.” Speaking of the gospel stuff, I did miss “How Great Thou Art.” But hey, that’s a minor complaint.

Ty
Funny, I was just about to say the same thing about “How Great Thou Art,” which of course featured prominently on the Memphis concert album. I had a slight twinge of disappointment when I saw the Richmond track listing and it wasn’t there.

Thomas
I just love it when he sings the ending one more time in Memphis. And his voice, so powerful, it gives me goose bumps!

Ty
At least the Grammys got that one right. So, what did you think about the bonus songs, recorded in Tulsa and Memphis? I thought it was cool to hear “Sweet Caroline” in 1974. I don’t remember hearing that one outside of 1970 before. Also, “Johnny B. Goode” is always welcome.

Thomas
I think the most important thing was that they showed what a difference there is in sound quality between a soundboard and the professionally recorded Richmond concert. And once again I was reminded how very similar “My Baby Left Me” and “That’s All Right” sound.

Ty
It was really awesome to hear a 1974 version of “That’s All Right” in Memphis. That live performance was just a few months shy of the 20th anniversary of Elvis first recording it at Sun Studio there – the record that started it all.

Thomas
I hadn’t thought of that. That is indeed awesome!

Ty
What do you think about Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis being presented in the oversized, 7-inch digipack format usually reserved for FTD’s Classic Albums series?

Thomas
I thought it was great that it was presented this way. I’m a bit tired of the live material not getting treated as serious as the classic album series.

Ty
Agreed. If I remember correctly, they originally planned this treatment for As Recorded At Boston Garden last year, but a production issue or something caused them to put it in the standard, smaller format.

Thomas
Or was it the latest 1969 concert, I don’t remember.

Ty
That’s right, it was actually the Live In Vegas release they originally planned for the larger format. Maybe, FTD now intends to use that format more often? Perhaps, at least on “special” releases of live material where the sound and/or show is of a high quality.

Thomas
Here’s hoping the last couple of August 1969 and 1970 concerts will get this treatment.

Ty
That would be great. I hope that’s the case as well.

Thomas
Hopefully the 1972 concert in Richmond will also get an official release soon, together with the other shows recorded for Elvis On Tour.

Ty
Yes, that is the Richmond show that has the best chance of also getting an official release at some point.  I just hope it’s sooner, rather than later. Do you think the release of this 1974 show will mean that there will be less of a chance of the 1972 Richmond show coming soon?

Thomas
I hope not, Ty. I’ve heard that Ernst Jorgensen is waiting for Turner/Warner Home Video to make a move with the unreleased footage, to do a combo of sorts, but that won’t happen anytime soon, I’m afraid. I just hope he realizes this and releases the shows from Elvis On Tour anyway. For now I’m really pleased with FTD for releasing this Richmond show, it’s not an album that’s going to collect a lot of dust on the shelf for a long time yet.

Ty
I’m definitely happy about this release as well. This is a special CD that I’ll be playing often for the rest of my life. What are your final thoughts on this CD? What are you going to remember most about it?

Thomas
You know what I thought halfway into listening to it the first time? It hit me how happy I am being an Elvis fan, and what a pleasure it gives me to listen to a great concert like the one from Richmond. Also, that Elvis was in great shape during the March 1974 tour, delivering the goods in style! But I guess, I’m gonna remember the most how incredible it is that a professionally Elvis concert like this can suddenly make an appearance out of the blue. It was almost as exciting waiting for it as listening to it. Well, not really, but hopefully you see my point.

Ty
Yes . . . it shows hope that there is still more out there, waiting to be discovered. Things not even rumored to exist.
For me, it was really something to finally hear an Elvis concert recorded here in Richmond, where he appeared 15 times. This is number 14, yet he still sounds engaged, like he’s having a great time. Obviously, the audience was, too. It was a fantastic show. Though he came back to Richmond once more in 1976, my understanding is that this 1974 concert was his last great show in Richmond.
Thanks again, Thomas. This has been a fun little experiment, but I wonder if people will enjoy reading this kind of post?

Thomas
I sure hope so. At least it was enjoyable to write, so thank you, Ty!


As with other FTD releases, the only physical store in the US authorized to sell the Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis CD is Good Rockin’ Tonight, a Graceland gift shop in Memphis. However, the CD may be obtained online from a variety of other Elvis stores – including Graceland’s ShopElvis.com.

Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis

Live At The Richmond Coliseum, March 18, 1974
01) Also Sprach Zarathustra/
02) See See Rider
03) I Got A Woman/Amen [edited with Memphis, March 20, 1974]
04) Love Me
05) Tryin’ To Get To You
06) All Shook Up
07) Steamroller Blues
08) Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel
09) Love Me Tender
10) Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On/Your Mama Don’t Dance/Flip, Flop & Fly/Jailhouse Rock/Hound Dog
11) Fever
12) Polk Salad Annie
13) Why Me
14) Suspicious Minds
15) Introductions By Elvis
16) I Can’t Stop Loving You
17) Help Me
18) An American Trilogy
19) Let Me Be There
20) Funny How Time Slips Away
21) Can’t Help Falling In Love/
22) Closing Vamp

Elvis at the Richmond Coliseum, March 18, 1974 (FTD)

Elvis at the Richmond Coliseum, March 18, 1974 (FTD)

Bonus Songs
23) Sweet Caroline [Tulsa, March 1, 1974]
24) Johnny B. Goode [Memphis, March 17, 1974]
25) That’s All Right [Memphis, March 17, 1974]

Elvis revamps his show

Inspired by a recent eBay auction of Elvis’ handwritten rehearsals set list from August 1974, Thomas has a posted another creative piece over on his Elvis Today Blog. This is a must-read:

“The Handwritten Las Vegas Rehearsal Set List” — Elvis Today Blog

Sony’s Follow That Dream collectors label for Elvis fans documented the rehearsals on the 2-CD set From Sunset to Vegas. The unique opening show of this engagement is one of two concerts that appear on FTD’s 2-CD Nevada Nights.

“The Twelfth Of Never” and “Softly, As I Leave You” from the August 16, 1974, rehearsal first appeared on 1995’s Walk A Mile In My Shoes.

I always find it a little eerie while listening to “Softly” in particular to think that Elvis would pass away exactly three years later.

He felt himself start to die, and he took his notepad from the side of the bed, and he wrote, ‘Softly, I will leave you, softly. For my heart would break, if you should wake, and see me go…'” –From “Softly As I Leave You,” Elvis Presley version, August 16, 1974

Pieces of our lives: A look at modern Elvis fans

The Elvis Today Blog (book)
By Thomas Melin
274 pp. Blurb. $9.95

The Elvis Today Blog (2011)

The Elvis Today Blog (2011)

Full Disclosure: I wrote a guest post for the Elvis Today Blog back in 2009, and it appears in this book (p. 224). The last thing I want to do is start reviewing my own material, though, so the following review covers the other 99% of this compilation.

Don’t let the title of this book fool you. The Elvis Today Blog is not a book about an Elvis site. Without a doubt, The Elvis Today Blog is a book about Elvis.

However, it turns out that The Elvis Today Blog is also a book about us – modern Elvis fans.

By relating his personal experiences, author Thomas Melin crafts a unique volume that follows the triumphs and trials of being an Elvis fan in the post-1977 era.

“Sometimes it just hits me how much I love Elvis music and what a great feeling I get from listening to it,” writes Melin in “The Wonder Of Elvis” (p. 56), one of his best entries. “On the highway I put the fourth CD from the Today, Tomorrow & Forever box set in the car stereo and there was ‘See See Rider’ from February 1970 blasting through the speakers. It’s hard to explain what I felt, but I remember thinking ‘Man, I’m gonna listen to Elvis and his music until the very day I die,'” he states.

A major contribution of The Elvis Today Blog is the “Special Moments With FTD” series, Melin’s focus on specific songs released on Sony’s Follow That Dream collectors label for Elvis fans:

  • “Love Me Tender,” Dixieland Rocks (1975) – p. 65
  • “The Sound Of Your Cry,” The Nashville Marathon (1970) – p. 78
  • “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” So High (1967) – p. 92
  • “Mexico,” Out In Hollywood (1963) – p. 107
  • “It’s Easy For You,” The Jungle Room Sessions (1976) – p. 116
  • “Hey Little Girl,” Out In Hollywood (1965) – p. 182
  • “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” One Night In Vegas (1970) – p. 182
  • “My Boy,” Dixieland Rocks (1975) – p. 183
  • “Young And Beautiful,” Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals (1972) – p. 238
  • “Suspicious Minds,” Memphis Sessions (1969) – p. 265

Most notable of the above entries are those dealing with “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “It’s Easy For You,” and “Suspicious Minds,” where the author uses powerful descriptions to take you inside the various studios to watch Elvis at work.

Modern Elvis fans aren’t just listening to records and CDs, though. They also enjoy listening to Elvis on their iPods or other portable music devices. “I too like buying and collecting CD’s, reading the liner notes and listening to the tracks on my stereo. But that doesn’t stop me from downloading the music into my iPod and taking it with me whenever I’m traveling somewhere. To me, that’s the real benefit of owning an iPod, that I always have access to the Elvis Presley catalog, wherever I happen to be,” Melin says (“Ku-u-i-pod,” p. 37).

I don’t normally comment on cover design and page layout of books (unless they are awful), but these elements by Staffan Melin, a brother of the author, warrant special mention. The cover is a creative take-off of the 1975 Elvis Today album cover. The interior page layout makes for easy reading, featuring the Deja Vu Serif Condensed font. Kudos to the designer.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the web version of the Elvis Today Blog. In fact, I often find inspiration there, and the Mystery Train Elvis Blog would probably not exist in its present form without the Elvis Today Blog’s influence. It has been a joy rediscovering favorite or forgotten posts as I read them in book format.

Needless to say, I’m hoping that Melin releases additional volumes of his Elvis works. One enhancement suggestion I have for the next volume would be to include an index, to make it easier to find all of the references to certain topics. If that could not be done on a large scale, it seems that at least the Labels feature in use on the web version could be converted into a short index for the book version.

Another way to enhance future volumes would be if Melin included supplemental information that was not part of the original blog posts. Using an example from this book, he mentions meeting drummer DJ Fontana (p. 28), who shared some Elvis stories with him. Maybe one or two of those stories could be noted as bonus content.

Those are just minor suggestions, though. The Elvis Today Blog is not only a great book about Elvis, but an essential examination of contemporary Elvis fandom. Highly recommended.

The Elvis Today Blog goes retro!

The “Elvis” of Elvis blogs.

The greatest Elvis blog of all time.

Those are two apt descriptions that immediately come to mind for Thomas Melin’s Elvis Today Blog. Thomas is far too humble to promote his blog with such strong words, so I thought I’d take a moment and do it for him. Some folks out there like to brag, but I suppose when you are already at the top of the mountain, there’s no need for it.

Who says the Internet will be the death of books? On the contrary, Thomas has turned his first 271 Elvis Today posts into a book – now available. I’ve already read every post on his site, but I’m looking forward to reading them all again in this retro format. The book also contains one bonus post that never appeared on the Elvis Today Blog web version.

* * *

Thomas has been kind enough to guest blog for me a couple of times:

  • Elvis Super 8 Film Festival
  • Clambake! (The Mystery Train Elvis blog)

I hope he keep those Elvis Today Blog posts coming. After all, every spectacular book deserves a sequel.

Guest Blog #1: Elvis 1967 – Clambake!

When Ty announced that The Mystery Train Elvis Blog would honor the 44th anniversary of 1967 with special features on that Elvis year all throughout 2011, I couldn’t keep my fingers away from the keyboard. Not only does 1967 mark the year I was born, it also saw the release of the soundtrack album Clambake, and I’d like to talk a little bit about the latter.

Clambake (1967)

Clambake (1967)

Actually, Clambake isn’t strictly a soundtrack album as it includes no less than five bonus songs, four of them recorded in Nashville on September 10-11, 1967. No doubt this is a big part of the explanation why I like it. And although one of the worst soundtrack songs Elvis ever recorded is featured on it as well, a lot of the movie material works surprisingly well.

Clambake is the only soundtrack album to kick off with a bonus song, and what a start it is. For starving fans back in 1967 it must have been a joy to listen to Elvis belting out “Guitar Man.” This is one of the songs that revealed that Elvis was again showing signs of musical creativity and a newly found interest in his career.

Although the same thing can’t be said about the next song, I actually enjoy the title track “Clambake.” It’s a fun number and I love it when Elvis sings “Aaaaaaaallrigh” at the beginning of the instrumental break.

The duet “Who Needs Money?” is a dreary song, but what follows is the pretty little ballad “A House That Has Everything.” Unfortunately, it’s then time for “Confidence,” a song I would list among the five worst numbers Elvis ever recorded. A children’s song that is unlikely to appeal to any child, or grownup too, for that matter.

The last song on side 1 of the original LP is “Hey, Hey, Hey,” a number many fans think is crap. I agree that the lyrics are silly and that the scene in the movie where it’s sung is an awful one. But I think it works well on record, it’s a funky, enjoyable number.

Side two is actually better than the first one, no doubt because the rest of the bonus songs can be found on it, together with the beautiful “You Don’t Know Me,” certainly one of Elvis’ best soundtrack ballads. When I bought the LP I never understood why it was labeled “Specially recorded for records.” It was years later that I learned that Elvis wasn’t satisfied with the version recorded during the Clambake session, on February 21, 1967.

“The Girl I Never Loved” is another beauty, I love it when Elvis sighs while singing “The kiss I never got, somebody else will make…” A sensitive ballad.

Why is is that some of the best songs are always cut from the movies? “Animal Instinct” from Harum Scarum and “Sand Castles” from Paradise, Hawaiian Style are two such examples, the bonus song “How Can You Lose What You Never Had” from Clambake another.

The three excellent bonus songs “Big Boss Man,” “Singing Tree,” and “Just Call Me Lonesome” round off the original Clambake album, released in October 1967, four months after I was born. I first listened to it maybe fifteen years later, and still do now and then. Clambake, gonna have a clambake!

/Thomas, Elvis Today


Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train Elvis Blog is commemorating the 44th anniversary of 1967. Why? Riders of this train love exploring Elvis’ entire career, not just the 1950s. Find out more here.